Blair Academy returned to its coeducational roots in September 1970, when the first girls in more than five decades officially joined the student body. Starting with that inaugural group of 26 day girls, the new coeds became a part of every aspect of campus life, including extracurricular clubs and activities.
It is interesting to note that in the years just prior to the reinstatement of coeducation, the high-school age daughters of some faculty members participated in a few Blair activities, thus setting the stage for the female students who would soon follow. For instance Mollie (Howard) Conklin ’71, daughter of Headmaster James and Selena Howard, and Connie (Barrett) Hilliard, daughter of Blair’s business manager Myron K. Barrett Jr. ’40 and resident nurse Eleanor Barrett, attended a first-period class at Blair before walking to Blairstown High School to finish their day. The faculty daughters enjoyed formal dinners with their parents and Blair students in the dining hall, and, in 1967, Mrs. Hilliard graced the Blair stage when the Drama Club needed a girl to play the role of Lora in its production of Impromptu.
The 1971 ACTA, published at the conclusion of the first official year of coeducation, includes mention of all the activities in which students participated during the 1970-1971 school year. Girls were a part of the Drama Club, the Tweeds a cappella group, the girls’ chorus, the Activities Committee and the cheerleading squad. They held leadership roles as day-student prefects and as a sophomore class officer. In addition, an October article in The Blair Breeze notes that girls would participate in golf, swimming and tennis, with plans in place for two girls to teach dance.
Blair welcomed more than two dozen boarding girls at the start of the 1971-1972 school year, and with the female population now effectively doubled, girls took part in even more activities. They worked on the ACTA and The Blair Breeze; served in student government and on the Activities, Library and Chapel committees; and participated in the Drama Club and in the newly coed choir.
That list grew longer the following year. The 1973 ACTA includes girls as part of the ACTA staff, the Chapel, Library and Activities committees, Tweeds, choir, Child Guidance, Blue and White Key Society, Afro-Latin Caucus and Camera Club. Twenty-three girls graduated with the class of 1973—following the graduations of five and nine girls in 1971 and 1972, respectively—and it’s safe to say all of the girls in the early years of coeducation blazed a trail for girls’ participation in any and every extracurricular club or activity at Blair ever since.
(Special thanks to library assistant Holly Newcomb for her research for this article. The images of the Drama Club, Library Committee and Child Guidance are from the 1973 ACTA.)